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Store clerk shoots armed robber

Excerpted from original publication here, entitled:
"Store clerk shoots gunman"
St. Petersburg Times, published March 31, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Wearing a blue scarf that concealed his mouth and nose, the man who entered the Food Max grocery store Friday afternoon headed straight to the counter and pointed a shiny revolver at the clerk.

"I ain't going to shoot nobody . . . I just need the money," he said, according to Cardrick Cason, a customer who was standing at the counter.

The clerk fumbled at the cash register, and the owner quickly came to help, police said. Several shoppers froze and nervously watched from the store's aisles.

As the man grabbed the money from owner Michael Issa and slightly lowered his pistol, the clerk quickly pulled a gun from a drawer behind the counter, Issa said. The suspect shuffled back toward the door as the clerk shot three times, Cason said.

"It was quick," Cason said of the incident.

Lorenzo Darlington, 20, was taken from the Food Max, 1400 18th Ave. S, about 2:15 p.m. to Bayfront Medical Center, where he was in critical condition Friday night, police and hospital officials said. Police said Darlington was shot at least twice in the upper body. Cason said he saw blood coming from the man's head and rib area.

The police account of the shooting differed slightly from that of Issa and the other witnesses. Police said the clerk shot the man while Issa was opening the register.

Issa, whose store also was robbed last week, said police told him they would not charge the clerk, whom he declined to name. Police also did not release the clerk's name.

Issa said he was scared the suspect would shoot.

"That's it?" Issa said the man screamed after he handed him the money.

"Damn it, that's it!" Issa screamed back as seven witnesses looked on.

Issa's three clerks told him that Darlington was the man who robbed the store last week.

"My guys recognized him," said Issa, who did not know how much cash he gave the man. "He had the same voice, same hair sticking out of the side of his scarf. He came in with a machine gun last week. Last time it was so easy for him."

After last week's robbery -- the first since Issa bought the store last year -- Issa moved his gun closer to the register. Issa said he checked with police before putting the gun in the store.

Darlington has been arrested several times on charges of marijuana possession, according to arrest records.

Cason said the clerks were hesitant to call police.

Some onlookers said the clerk had the right to shoot the man.

"If someone tries to rob your store, you protect yourself," said Renee Graham. "That's the last time he'll ever do that. I don't think they should charge the clerk."

"We feel sorry for what happened," Issa said. "It was absolutely self-defense. We were fearing for our lives."

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